The secrets of search success part 1: convincing senior management of the value of search

We asked experts in search, information architecture, intranets, content management and usability for their views on the key challenges facing organisations seeking to deploy search solutions.

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In Part 1 of our Expert Q&A we look at the value of search, and how to convince senior management to take search seriously. Part 2 will explore developing a search strategy, and selecting the right technology.

Our experts are Tony Byrne (Founder of The Real Story Group); Charlie Hull (Managing Director of open source specialists Flax); Sam Marshall (Director, ClearBox Consulting); Peter Morville (President, Semantic Studios); Paul Nelson (Chief Architect of Search Technologies), James Robertson (MD of intranet specialists Step Two Designs) and usability expert Tony Russell-Rose (Founder of UXLabs).

Q: Why do organisations fail to see the value of Search in achieving their business objectives?

Peter Morville: Everyone knows the value of search. Google's worth $300 billion. SEO and e-commerce are gold mines. You'd have to live under a rock to not recognise that search is the disruptive innovation of a lifetime. What executives fail to see is the value of investing in their own employees.

Sam Marshall: Leaders aren't exposed to the pain of poor search so they don't appreciate how it would help: the whole structure of organisations is geared around reporting information up to them, and what they can't find they can delegate to someone else to fetch for them.

Paul Nelson: Probably because there are so few good search implementations. Mount Everest expectations are matched against trowel-sized capabilities. The industry hasn’t reached the tipping point where cost is less than value for most organisations. But we’re close. Very, very close.

Charlie Hull: If your accounting software didn't work you wouldn't get paid. If your website went down your company becomes effectively invisible. But search? Search isn't seen as essential because there are always slower and less efficient ways to find things out...asking colleagues, digging through folders packed with files helpfully called 'TENDER DOCUMENT 34.doc' or repeating the work your predecessors did, and their predecessors did before them. So you can probably achieve your goal, eventually...

Tony Russell-Rose: Because they think of it as a commodity IT function rather than a cornerstone of sound knowledge management.

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